Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Racial Gap in Attention to Trayvon Story

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"For African Americans, No Other Story Comes Close"

"Close Friend" Joe Oliver Leaves Questioners Doubtful

Geraldo "Apologizes" for Blaming Hoodies in Killing

Poynter Ombudsman Frowns on ESPN's OK to Hoodies

Sharpton's Dual Role Would Have Been Unthinkable

Snarky Remarks From the Fishbowl Said to Go Too Far

On Stage at D.C.'s Gridiron, Page Provided the Color

Short Takes

"For African Americans, No Other Story Comes Close"

"The growing controversy over the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida was the public’s top story last week, though African Americans express far greater interest in news about the killing than do whites," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Tuesday.

"Overall, a quarter of Americans (25%) say they followed news about the African American teenager killed by a community watch volunteer more closely than any other story. Smaller percentages say they followed news about the presidential elections (16%) or the economy (15%) most closely, according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted March 22-25, 2012, among 1,003 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

"African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to say that this was their top story (52% vs. 20%). For African Americans, no other story comes close. Whites followed election news about as closely as Martin’s death . . ."

The Pew study came as Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera responded to criticism of his remark that the "hoodie" caused Martin's death as much as assailant George Zimmerman; ESPN's ombudsman from the Poynter Institute reproached the network for allowing staffers to post photos of themselves wearing hoodies; and in an appearance on MSNBC’s "The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell" former television anchor Joe Oliver, who has defended Zimmerman, acknowledged under grilling by O'Donnell and two black journalists that he hasn’t had in-depth conversations with Zimmerman. (See items below.)

And Matt Gutman reported for ABC News, "A police surveillance video taken the night that Trayvon Martin was shot dead shows no blood or bruises on George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who says he shot Martin after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed into the ground."

The Pew study continued, "Looking at a separate measure, 35% of the public says they followed news about the shooting and the still-unfolding controversy very closely. Seven-in-ten blacks say this (70%), compared with 30% of whites.

". . . The gap between black and white attentiveness to news about the Trayvon Martin story follows a pattern seen in other stories involving questions about race and the law dating back more than 20 years. In March 1991, for example, 66% of African Americans said they very closely followed news about the videotaped beating of Rodney King, captured by Los Angeles police after a car chase. About four-in-ten whites (43%) said they followed this news very closely.

"In the current survey, women say they followed news about the Florida killing and the subsequent controversy more closely than men."

Charles M. Blow of the New York Times, left, and former TV anchor Joe Oliver on MSNBC. (Video)

"Close Friend" Joe Oliver Leaves Questioners Doubtful

"Watch the MSNBC segments below in their full glory," Erik Wemple wrote Wednesday for the Washington Post. "Host Lawrence O’Donnell, Charles Blow of the New York Times and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post cross-examine Joe Oliver, the ex-reporter/anchor who has spoken repeatedly on behalf of George Zimmerman in media appearances on the Trayvon Martin case. Multiple takeaways:

"1) A rotating panel of experts taking swings at an emerging public figure — in this case, Oliver — makes for gripping television.

"2) An argument about the precise degree of friendship/acquaintanceship that Oliver developed with George Zimmerman can gobble up 25 minutes of air time. Is Oliver an avuncular figure for Zimmerman? An acquaintance? A friend?

"3) Blow has an edgy streak and really, really doesn’t appreciate Oliver’s contributions to the Trayvon Martin discussion.

". . . 6) This is not just another pointless cable-TV shout-fest. Oliver has placed himself in the news stream to vouch for Zimmerman. Though it's still less than clear why he has done so, there’s a public imperative to know how deeply grounded is his familiarity with Zimmerman. As the interrogators in these segments have shown, the answer to that question is: not very."

On his own blog, Capehart wrote, "After an intense grilling for about 30 minutes, Oliver revealed himself to be nothing more than an acquaintance and raised questions about why he inserted himself into this national maelstrom to begin with."

Geraldo "Apologizes" for Blaming Hoodies in Killing

"Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said Tuesday that he's sorry for suggesting that a hoodie worn by unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was as much responsible for his death as the neighborhood watch captain who shot him," David Bauder reported Tuesday for the Associated Press.

"Rivera said a conversation with his oldest son on Monday convinced him he was wrong. Rivera said it was the first time 32-year-old Gabriel Rivera had said he was ashamed of something his dad had said — and it caused the dad a sleepless night.

". . . Rivera said he was apologizing 'for offending anyone.'

" 'I apologize for the language,' he said. 'I don't apologize at all for the substance of my advice. I was trying to save lives.'

"Rivera said his oldest son was witness to tension between his father and brother, 24-year-old Cruz Rivera, over the young man's clothing. Rivera said he wanted urban parents to realize that clothing their children wear — such as hooded T-shirts or low-slung pants — could appear menacing to people who don't know them and could put them unnecessarily in danger.

On, hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons wrote, "Geraldo, your apology is bullshit!"

"Your apology is nothing but a defense of a racist, backward thing you already said. And I am a yogi, and I generally don't speak like this, but I have to say it like it is. It is a non-apology apology that continues to blame the victim for their appearance."

Poynter Ombudsman Frowns on ESPN's OK to Hoodies

"Rob King, senior vice president of editorial for ESPN digital and print media, was involved in the decision over the weekend to allow an exception to the company’s social media policy and allow employees to post the hoodie image on social networks," Kelly McBride wrote Tuesday for the Poynter Review Project Blog at "There was a robust conversation about the topic among ESPN executives before a decision was made, King told us.

Rob King (Credit: Friday, spokesman Josh Krulewitz cited the network's social media policies in explaining why ESPN warned staffers who tweet not to post photos of themselves wearing hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old youth killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

But on Sunday, ESPN reversed itself. "It's a tragic situation that has led to much thoughtful discussion throughout the company," Krulewitz said then. "As a result, in this circumstance, we have decided to allow this particular expression of human sympathy."

McBride quoted King: "We asked, 'What are they expressing?' Visually, they are expressing their notions of tolerance around the case. We feel this is a unique expression."

ESPN and the Poynter Institute announced on March 22, 2011, that  they would partner for 18 months in the Poynter Review Project, offering independent examination and analysis of ESPN's media outlets.

McBride cited a column by's Jemele Hill and contended that "As a journalism organization, ESPN should do more work like Hill's and less like the self-expression of several others — including ESPN anchors Trey Wingo and Mike Hill, NFL reporter Michael Smith and Grantland writer Jonathan Abrams — who donned hoodies in their Twitter avatars."

Of King's explanation, McBride wrote, "In the abstract, that is certainly true. But in the specific instance of this case, the hoodie is a visual expression of support for the parents of Trayvon and their petition for law enforcement to bring charges against the man who killed their son. King said he believes that most of the ESPN folks using the hoodie image were expressing broader support for the value of tolerance.

"Even if that's the case, there's no way for the audience to know which sentiment was being expressed by the hoodie, or the intent behind it. And we don't know how the facts in this specific story will continue to change."

Sharpton's Dual Role Would Have Been Unthinkable

"Al Sharpton's activism on the Trayvon Martin case has given him a unique role — some would say unique conflict — on MSNBC. The news network host is in the middle of a story he's been featuring every evening on the air," David Bauder reported for the Associated Press.

"Half of Sharpton's 'PoliticsNation' program on MSNBC Monday was about the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Fla., leading with an interview with Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Sharpton's only reference to his own involvement in the case was a remark that 'we did the press conference' earlier in the day.

"The veteran civil rights activist has spoken at rallies in support of Martin. Monday before the Sanford city commission, Sharpton testified that Martin's parents had endured 'insults and lies' over reports that their son attacked George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot him.

"Sharpton's dual role would have been unthinkable on television 20 years ago and still wouldn't be allowed at many news organizations. While opinionated cable news hosts have become commonplace over the past decade, Sharpton goes beyond talking."

'What's That on Rep. Corrine Brown's Head?' Betsy Rothstein asked on FishbowlDC.

Snarky Remarks From the Fishbowl Said to Go Too Far

Betsy Rothstein, editor of Mediabistro's FishbowlDC media blog, is known for snark and attitude.

On Tuesday, the column posted a photo of Rep. Corrine Brown and asked, "Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) has been in the news more than usual as of late discussing the death of Trayvon Martin. As a result, readers have been wondering about that head of hair — for one thing, is it real, and if not what is it?

"So we’re asking you to take our poll."

A reader wrote to Journal-isms, ". . . Did you see the 'poll' in today's column, asking if Rep. Corinne Brown is wearing a wig and offering a series of rude, disrespectful choices if you choose to vote? And did you see a few days ago when she made fun of Rep. Frederica Wilson, whose trademark is that she wears hats? The congresswoman had on a cowboy-girl hat, one of many she owns in that shape. Rothstein took it as another opportunity to ridicule a black woman lawmaker.

"For someone who doesn't seem to see black folks except when there is some negative attached (see Roland Martin's tweets; she wrote about him as if he's a cute little pet), she is mighty bold."

In the FishbowlDC comments section, a person who signed as "kathapollitt," the name of a writer for The Nation magazine (Nation spokesman Gennady Kolker did not respond to a request to verify) wrote, "Why are you making fun of this woman's appearance when she is saying something important about an issue that matters? And a rape joke? What's the matter with you?"

"Jamilah" wrote: "Amazing. Where is Betsy asking this of the white people? Also, what business of it is yours?!"

Journal-isms asked Rothstein to respond.

"FishbowlDC is an equal opportunity mocker. We poke fun at Washington newsmakers of all races, genders, ages and political persuasions," she wrote. "To insinuate that this is racism not only insults the intelligence of your readers but is not based in any fact, thought or reason.

"The cowboy hat post just happened to be about a black person. If Jill Biden went on TV with a hat that silly and an ugly octopus adornment on her blazer there is no doubt we'd write about her, too. On the Roland Martin comments, I'm offended. We take our Roland relationship very seriously. Besides, we're doing it for Dana Perino now. A well-known white lady.

"The only thing you can accurately say is FishbowlDC writes about black people sometimes because they, too, are journalists and members of Congress. If that is the kind of journalism you want to run with, go for it Richard."

On Stage at D.C.'s Gridiron, Page Provided the Color

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page says a newcomer to Washington's annual Gridiron Club dinner might be forgiven for assuming that only one journalist of color attended what the Washington Post called "the most insidery of media-insider dinners" Saturday night.

The invitation-only, off-the-record event, sometimes attended by politicians, Clarence Pagefeatures journalists performing current-events song parodies.

Asked whether the newcomer's perception was true, Page told Journal-isms by email, "Not quite, although my larger-than-life onstage antics may have left that impression.

"I presume you're talking about people on stage, since the audience featured such luminaries-of-color as Gwen Ifill, Frank Whitaker and Valerie Jarrett, to name a few.

"But, with Bill Raspberry," the retired Washington Post columnist, "on sick leave and NPR's Vickie Walton James also sitting it out this year, I was almost the only member of color left onstage.

"BTW, this is not an issue we take lightly. As a member of the membership committee, I have helped our organization (founded in 1885) to cast a wide net for ethnic, racial and gender diversity — after way too many decades as a classic white-male institution.

"Unfortunately, like our industry, we recently have had more success with gender diversity than racial diversity. One problem: With our membership limited to 50 active members at a time, turnover is slow, even in our industry's recent turbulence."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Lack of diversity at the top

In case you missed it, the stats cited in this article are sad:


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